“They need pay hikes now, not in 2016.” – ACT Teachers Partylist Rep. Antonio Tinio
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Dismayed public school teachers blasted the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for prolonging the overdue salary increase for teachers and non-teaching personnel. According to the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), the DBM said they can only propose for a salary hike for government employees after they have reviewed the compensation classification system (CCS) that the agency would probably finish by 2016.
“This is unacceptable. The last salary increase of government employees was in 2009. The next will be in 2016. Meantime, the prices of basic commodities, tuition and utilities have been incessantly shooting up, and the salary of teachers and non-teaching personnel can no longer cope with that,” said Joselyn Martinez, a teacher from Malabon Elementary School and deputy chairwoman of ACT said in a press conference on Tuesday, Aug. 5 at the House of Representatives.
The DBM made the statement at the House Committee on Appropriations on Tuesday morning, in response to the 39 bills calling for increases in the salaries and benefits of government employees. This included the ACT Partylist-sponsored House Bill 245 for teachers and non-teaching staff in basic education, HB 246 for instructors and professors in universities and colleges, and HB 250 for a P4,000 ($91.60) monthly Personnel Economic Relief Allowance. Also included is HB 3015 calling for an additional P6,000 ($137.40) in the minimum pay of all government employees.
According to ACT Teachers’ Partylist Rep. Antonio Tinio, this was the first hearing by the House Committee on Appropriations regarding the House bills for the salary increase of teachers and government employees.
“This statement proves that this administration does not heed the loud clamor of state workers for immediate economic relief. It refuses to include provisions for salary increases in its proposed budgets, like the one it has recently submitted to Congress for 2015,” Tinio said.
Tinio said the DBM has been violating the Salary Standardization Law or the Joint Resolution No. 4, which states that a periodic review of the government’s Compensation and Position Classification System shall be conducted every three years, taking into consideration the needs of the bureaucracy as well as “the possible erosion in the purchasing power due to inflation.” The Salary Standardization Law was enacted in 2009.
He added that the DBM also trampled on the rights of government employees’ workers to adequate compensation in the process. “The fact remains that workers in the government need salary increases because of the high costs of living, not because DBM or Aquino says so. They need pay hikes now, not in 2016.”
Rosalio Ayque, Master Teacher 2 at the East Bagong Barrio Elementary School in Caloocan City and a teacher for 27 years, said the teachers’ salary today only covers payment for their long list of loans. “Before, our salary could still cover food expenses for a month. Now, it only pays for our loans,” he said in a separate interview with Bulatlat.com.
Ayque explained that the high cost of living in Metro Manila forces teachers to acquire loans because they receive their salary monthly. “Teachers can only take home P3,000 ($68.70) to P4,500 ($103.05) a month because they are paying for their loans. They are left with only one choice to survive until the next pay day – to take out a loan.”
The current salary of public school teachers is pegged at P18, 549 ($424.78) a month while non-teaching personnel is P9,000 ($206.10) a month. The ACT has been staunchly fighting for an increase that would bring the entry-level salary of teachers to P25,000 ($527.51) a month and P15,000 ($343.50) for non-teaching personnel.
ACT Secretary General France Castro said the inaction of the Aquino administration over their demand for a salary increase is also a violation of Republic Act 4670 or the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers. She said the Magna Carta mandates that teachers’ salaries must be able to provide reasonable standard of life for themselves and their families. “The government, in keeping our pay level low, is already violating our Magna Carta.”
Meanwhile, in a dialogue with ACT, Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Bro. Armin Luistro expressed his support to the teachers’ call for a salary increase.
“On Monday, Aug. 4, we were successful in clinching the support of the entire DepEd leadership headed by Secretary Luistro for our demand to increase our salaries,” Castro said.
“Luistro said that he will be our voice to the President. He said he may not be joining our protests, because he is not allowed to do so, but his heart is with us,” said Martinez in a separate interview with Bulatlat.com.
However, Martinez said the Secretary’s words would be more believable if it included provisions for salary increase in its proposed budget for 2015. “But there is none of that. So it still goes to show that there will be no salary increase.”
Castro pointed out that an increase in their salaries is not too much. “We rightfully deserve it given the nature of our job and sacrifices for the Filipino youth. If the government sees us as the country’s heroes, they should give us what we rightfully deserve.”
“They should see and understand the fact that our current salary level can no longer give us decent living, pushing us to frequent lending institutions just to make both ends meet. The owners of these lending institutions have already earned too much from us while we continue to be mired in poverty.”
Tinio said that they will continue to press the Executive branch to prioritize the salary increase of government employees, as they continue the budget hearings in the coming days. “Let us act and prioritize the basic needs of government employees to improve public service and not the patronage projects and infrastructures of the Aquino administration that are funded under the illegal Disbursement Acceleration Program.”